I understand the fascination of fireworks, seen at night, in a beautiful display. I too have loved the yearly shows I saw first as a child in the US on the fourth of July and later in Israel on Independence Day. But I also grew up understanding that they are dangerous, and should be set off by professionals - in an open space - at night, etc.
On the Dutch news yesterday they mentioned that parking in Amsterdam over the past few days will be free - not out of good will for the New Year - but due to the fact that they have sealed off all the parking meters (and mailboxes too for that matter), as kids tend to stick fireworks inside them, and blow them up.
|Patriot Missiles protecting Tel Aviv|
These fireworks are too much for me. And the reason is one that sadly, many immigrants to these flatlands will identify with. I have lived through war.
During the Gulf War in 1991, I was living in Tel Aviv, working in an office building in Ramat Gan, and carrying a gas mask with me wherever I went.
Every night we would listen for the warning siren which did inevitably go off, put on our gas masks, scurry into our makeshift 'safe rooms' - a room where the windows were covered with plastic and tape, put a wet towel under the door and with our backs to the glass windows and with the TV on, we'd wait for the explosions. 39 SCUD missiles hit Israel, mostly in the Tel Aviv/Ramat Gan area. It was a terrifying period when I tried to lead a normal life, go to parties, date guys, do my work, but every night I feared the chemical rockets would land on my building and that I'd die an agonizing death. We typically heard two types of missile sounds - after the warning siren - the whistle of the Patriot missiles - trying to engage the SCUD midair and destroy it - and the explosion of the SCUD itself - landing in the vicinity, shaking the building like a minor earthquake. And finally, the siren of 'all clear' until the next time.
|SCUD Missile Damage in Ramat Gan|
Years later, when I moved to the Netherlands, I was surprised to learn that I could again mix with the crowds on Leidseplein and only have to worry about the pickpockets. I learned slowly that buses here were safe - and on time! People were not hysterical and much less stressed. Best of all, young people, including my children, never had to worry about becoming soldiers and their mothers never had to worry that their children would be hurt by random acts of war.
And I hope you understand now why I am traumatized by the fireworks of the 31st of December, and why I hope that firework displays will eventually be taken over by the city municipalities. I'm not the only immigrant from a country where there has been violence. I guess I'm not the only one traumatized by these loud explosive sounds.
My only question remains - Why do the Dutch love this so much?